Naturalizer may be known as a practical choice in women’s shoes, but a new re-branding effort is aiming to mix that functional perception with fashion.
Coinciding with its 90th anniversary, parent company Caleres, which also operates Sam Edelman, Via Spiga and Diane von Furstenberg shoes, among other lines, is trying to move Naturalizer into chicer territory with a younger customer base and the brand’s next 90 years in mind.
The re-branding includes a new, bolder logo, a more lifestyle-oriented advertising campaign and several new shoe styles, including a caramel suede over-the-knee boot for fall, a navy patent leather platform tassel loafer and a block heeled oxblood suede sandal — a far cry from the almost ergonomic flat slip-ons that have previously made up Naturalizer’s core offering.
Prices for the new styles are also higher, ranging from about $90 to $200, compared with prices starting in the $30 range for some earlier styles.
The focus on innovation and fit isn’t going anywhere, according to Caleres brand portfolio president Jay Schmidt, but a “modern” woman who wants comfort and a higher style quotient is being targeted by a “reimagined” Naturalizer.
“We have a higher ambition to reach with Naturalizer,” Schmidt said.
A higher fashion ambition is clear from mood boards the Naturalizer design team, led by Angelique Joseph, used for inspiration in thinking about the upcoming fall collection. Images range from street-style shots labeled “edgy but pretty” to modern tableware, and photos of trees to stacks of blankets.
But a desire to create more fashionable shoes only came after the consumer made it clear that that’s what she wanted, according to Schmidt.
“It’s interesting turning 90, for anyone turning 90, so about a year and a half ago we did some consumer research and we found a generation that did not know [the Naturalizer] brand…so it started with the consumer,” Schmidt said.
Since then, Caleres has slowly rolled out new Naturalizer styles and gotten feedback along the way that quickly showed “we should just be going further and further with our new ambition,” according to Schmidt.
While new styles have been out for a few months online and in Naturalizer storefronts and with some retail partners, including Macy’s, Nordstrom and Amazon, the fall collection marks the official relaunch of the brand and the most new styles to date.
As for how the older, core Naturalizer styles — which still have a dedicated following, especially online — will be marketed along with the new wave of sleeker offerings, Schmidt said plans on the collection becoming more cohesive but “over time.”
“We have seen that the core consumer, she will come in and end up trying on some of the new styles and liking them,” Schmidt said. “It’s a bit of a journey right now, but it’s really fun to see.”